A few years ago, I was inspired by the movie Pay it Forward, although it does have a difficult ending. It wasn't a new idea, of course, but the catchy phrase has helped the concept find new life. I know that the venerable and prolific American sage, Ben Franklin, was a fan of the approach -- he wrote about it in 1784.
To Benjamin Webb: A New Method of repaying Money lent.
Passy, 22 April 1784
. . . The account they give of your situation grieves me. I send you herewith a bill for ten louis d’ors. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting into some business, that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with such another opportunity. I hope it may thus go through many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little. With best wishes for the success of your memorial, and your future prosperity, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,
B. Franklin.1I have been thinking about a variety of ways - not necessarily monetary ones - to "pay it forward." Here's the short list:
- Tell someone about something that changed my life (because maybe it will change theirs!)
- Be a better steward of the many gifts I have; apply the World War II adage, "Use it up; wear it out, make it do or do without!"
- Take advantage of a new fangled way to lend.
- Make a pledge to an organization that is about global change.
- Take my grandma's advice, "waste not, want not!"
- Be helpful: rake leaves, babysit, deliver a pie, smile at the grocery store. Fill a need. Occupy a vacancy.
And . . it's remembering all of my own gifts when doing all or any of that seems too challenging. So now you know why I call it the "Spiritual Work Season." It was a season in need of a verb!